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Peg and the Yeti

by Kenneth Oppel, Barbara Reid, illus.

The remarkable Kenneth Oppel shows his mastery here of yet another type of children’s writing: the tall tale as picture book. Like his extremely popular Silverwing series, the Peg books (this is the second) feature lots of action and adventure, but the story is told as a yarn, in a colloquial Maritimer’s voice quite unlike that of Shade the bat. Peg, however, is just as determined a character as Shade, and undaunted by any obstacle she might encounter.

In Peg and the Yeti, she leaves the fishing boat that’s her home to look for another challenge. “She wanted big, she wanted better, she wanted best.” So she sets off, fishing rod over her shoulder, to climb Mount Everest. This being a Peg story, she of course meets a Yeti and wins his affection by feeding him pork scruncheons. After helping her reach the top of the world, where she greatly enjoys the view, the Yeti is unwilling to part with Peg and returns with her to the fishing boat. Though the Yeti, having learned to “pull lines, haul sheets and gut fish along with the best of them,” decides to stay on fishing, Peg at the end of the book is already looking for something new. In the tradition of Pippi Longstocking, Peg’s a cheerful, resourceful heroine who accomplishes extraordinary feats with panache, and we’ll undoubtedly hear more of her.

If Peg finds imaginative solutions to difficulties, she isn’t a patch on illustrator Barbara Reid, virtuoso of Plasticine, who shapes her medium into astonishingly versatile and expressive pictures. While a white Yeti on a snowy mountain might seem a pictorial challenge, Reid never falters, catching the energy and humour of the story in a wealth of scenes from vignettes to double-page spreads. As a read-aloud story, the text works splendidly; as an inspiration for art projects, the pictures are a great resource; and as a delightful picture book, Peg and the Yeti is a fine addition to any children’s collection.